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When my mother recently died, she left a substantial estate. Part of it comprises two accounts with a well-known full-service brokerage firm -- let's call it "Davis Coltrane & Co." One of them is a cash account in the name of her living trust. The other is her conventional IRA. At the time she died, she had not yet begun withdrawing from the IRA.

Shortly after her death, I contacted her account executive at Davis Coltrane and arranged a meeting. I gave him copies of her death certificate and the document establishing her living trust and naming me as her successor trustee.

Now, it happens that my mother's accounts were originally established with a different firm ("ParkerMonkGillespie"). In the intervening years, ParkerMonkGillespie was merged into Davis Coltrane.

Now the people at Davis Coltrane are telling me that it will take some time to identify the beneficiary or beneficiaries of the IRA. I find this surprising, and so does my attorney. One would think it would be listed on the paperwork she signed at the time she established it. If, that is, that paperwork has not disappeared between the time she first signed up with ParkerMonkGillespie and when it merged into Davis Coltrane.

Repeated queries to the account executive at Davis Coltrane have produced no new results -- every time I call, he responds with "I'm waiting to hear from our operations manager" or "I'll call you back with that info tomorrow." And of course, tomorrow comes, but not the callback.

My big fear is that the beneficiary information is lost for good. My mothers will specifies that her residuary estate is to be left to the trust; but the IRA is large enough to trigger the California probate process, thus defeating the entire purpose of the living trust setup.

My question is this: What can I do to light a fire under the people at Davis Coltrane to get on the stick and give solid, reliable answers? Should I sic my lawyer on them? Should I go to the SEC's broker oversight people? Would gentle hints at the lengths I am willing to go be sufficient?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give on the matter.
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